Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. In 2018 alone, it’s expected to take 50,630 lives. Granted, the death rate has been decreasing over the years due to early detection. Yet, that number is still far too high.
National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month aims to change that. The ultimate goal, of course, is to find a cure for this vicious disease that affects one in every 20 people. Yet, it’s also vital to educate people and provide support to patients and caregivers.
In view of this important cause, why not learn more about this disease and how you can join the crusade against it?
Stages and Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Colorectal cancer develops in the colon (also known as the large intestine) or in the rectum at the end of the colon. What symptoms does this cause? In early stages, there may be no symptoms at all. As the condition progresses, though, a person may begin to experience:
- Changes in the color or shape of stool
- Bloody bowel movements (or unexplained bleeding from the rectum)
- Passing gas excessively
- Constant fatigue or weakness
- Unintentional weight loss
There are four stages that doctors use for diagnosis.
Stage 1: Cancer has penetrated the lining of the colon or the rectum, but has not yet spread to the organ walls.
Stage 2: It has spread to the walls of the colon or rectum. It hasn’t yet affected neighboring lymph nodes or tissues, though.
Stage 3: It has spread to between one and three lymph nodes but has not moved to any other parts of the body.
Stage 4: It has spread far and wide to distant organs such as the lungs.
Especially if diagnosed in the first three stages, remission is more likely. This brings up an important point—screening.
The Importance of Screening
With early detection, most people live at least another five years after diagnosis. But suppose that a person has no symptoms as is sometimes the case with colon cancer patients? How can they know if they’re sick?
They should discuss screening options with their doctor. There are two primary types. 1) Those that identify polyps and problem areas in the colon, and 2) those designed to find cancer.
Polyps, which are abnormal tissue growths, have the potential to become cancerous. They’re often discovered by means of colonoscopies and even special x-ray tests. Often, the wisest course is to have them removed to avoid future issues.
As for tests designed to confirm the presence of cancer, they are far less invasive and easier to have done. These tests check the stool. Keep in mind, though that they do not detect polyps as the other procedures mentioned do. Even so, you should ask your doctor which screening methods are available to you and how often you should take advantage of them.
Join in Raising Awareness
Besides looking out for yourself, you have a wonderful opportunity. What is that? You have a chance to encourage others to get informed about and keep tabs on their colon health.
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance has several suggestions if you’d like to get involved. You could create or organize a fundraiser, show your support on Dress in Blue Day and so on. Will you become an ally in the fight against the Big “C?”